Mercato Centrale is the ultimate foodie paradise. Not only can you walk around, gawking at all the food, you’re also encouraged to sample and eat as much as possible. This was a fun food experience because I felt like I had the best lunch of my life simply by walking around and eating for two hours.
To list the food that we saw would make for an endless post, so instead, I’ll list the highlights:
Lampredotto from Nerbone’s.
Tripe is the first and second stomach of the cow. In Florence, a sandwich is made from the third and fourth stomach of the cow. The meat and the sandwich is called, “Lampredotto.” In Italian “lampredotto” refers to the Italian word for lamprey eels, called lampreda. The lampredotto meat resembles the look of a lamprey eel in shape and color so this is how the meat got its name.
Even if you do not like tripe (I don’t) I highly recommend trying the lampredotto sandwich next time you are in Florence. It’s a classic Florentine street food. Unlike the first and second stomach of the cow, the meat is not spongy and it is tender. The meat is chopped, slow cooked in a vegetable broth, seasoned with herbs and a little spicy olive oil or chilis. It’s then placed in a sliced bread roll and ready to be eaten!
We ate ours at Nerbone’s, a food stand that’s been open since 1872. We were able to find a seat at the nearby picnic style tables and wash it down with a glass of Chianti.
At the market the bottom half is vendors and walking around and eating samples or ordering something to munch on while you walk. The top half of the building is more like a really fancy food court, offering places to sit and eat food you buy from the perimeter of the second floor. They have pasta, seafood, lampredotto, truffles, gelato, pizza, wine bar, dim sum – pretty much anything you ever wanted to eat you can find here.
I’d advise eating downstairs. To me the downstairs is the main attraction and the upstairs is a place to rest after all the first round of eating 😉
We went to a pasta stand on the first floor. The pasta was made fresh daily and made when ordered. We got ravioli stuffed with ricotta and dressed in a lemon butter sauce. It was to die for!!!
While on the second floor I decided to buy truffle pasta for €25.00!!! Paul was a bit shocked at my truffle pasta dedication, but my love for this stuff knows no bounds. I also figured how many times in my life can I eat a mountain of high quality truffles sprinkled on buttery, fresh pasta? I went for it. And it was a heavenly experience that I hope all my fellow truffle pasta lovers enjoy too.
Besides the pasta we ate I saw every color and type of pasta imaginable. Rainbow striped, black squid ink pasta, green, red, farfalle, tagliatelle, tortellini, fettucine, fusilli, pappardelle, bucatini.
Dried goods are everywhere. Every type of mushroom ever. Candied fruit, dried fruit – banana, apricot, oranges, green peppers, ginger, mango. Nuts are also abound – Lots of hazelnuts (an Italian favorite), peanuts, chesnuts, walnuts, etc
Spices and Olive Oils
We saw every different type of pepper imaginable: black, white, red, green, pink, tri-colored. I saw “blue persian salt” which had a light blue speckles in it and I wanted to buy it, but I wanted to buy everything. Cinnamon filled the air. The bags of different spices are a beautiful display of the colors and smells that only nature can create: saffron, cumin, cardamom, and thyme. The oils and olive oils were insane – infused with everything ever: oranges, lemon, porcini, truffle, herbs ….
Cheese and Meat
Every type of cheese Tuscany had to offer. Mostly every type of cheese Italy had to offer. The meat was endless. From “the whole animal” to the cured slices of melt-in-your-mouth prosciutto it was overwhelming.
I think the seafood section was my favorite because I love seafood, but also seafood looks otherworldly with its legs and eyes and slimy texture. There were cuttlefish (popular in Italy), squid, octopus, fish, HUGE swordfish, scallops in their shell, prawns.